Taxpayers can decide each year whether to take the standard deduction or their itemized deductions when filing their personal income tax returns. Roughly, 75% of households with more than $75,000 income and most homeowners itemize their deductions.
Beginning in 2018, the standard deduction, available to all taxpayers, regardless of whether they own a home, is $24,000 for married filing jointly and $12,000 for single taxpayers.
Let's look at an example of a couple purchasing a $300,000 home with 3.5% down at 5% interest. The first year's interest would be $14,630 and property taxes are estimated at 1.5% of sales price would be $4,500.
The interest and property taxes would provide a combined total of $19,130 which is less than the $24,000 standard deduction. Unless this hypothetical couple has other itemized deductions like charitable contributions that would make the total exceed $24,000, they would benefit more from taking the standard deduction.
If the mortgage rate were at 8%, the combined total of taxes and interest would be almost $28,000 which would make itemizing the deductions more beneficial.
Tax professionals will compare available alternatives to find the one that will benefit the taxpayer most. For more information, see www.IRS.gov and consult a tax advisor.
Occasionally, when dealing with close relatives who might also become heirs, signing a note and handling the paperwork properly may seem like a needless effort but it could mean the difference in being able to take a legitimate interest deduction.
Home mortgage interest is deductible only if the loan is a secured debt which involves the buyer signing an instrument like a mortgage or deed of trust that makes the ownership of the home security for the debt. That instrument must then be recorded or otherwise perfected according to state or local law and the home, in case of default, must be able to satisfy the debt.
In a family situation, a parent, grandparent or other relative may decide to loan a buyer the money to purchase a home because they have it available and it isn’t earning much in certificates of deposit. They offer to loan it for a rate equal to what a conventional lender is charging but without the fees.
While it may appear to be a win-win situation, there could be problems if things are not done correctly. Even if the borrower makes the payments, they are not entitled to an interest deduction unless three criteria are met: 1) sign a debt instrument specifying the terms 2) securing and record the debt properly and 3) the home is sufficient collateral for the loan.
It would be prudent to consult with an attorney before you sign the final settlement papers to be comfortable that both buyer and the lender-relative are complying with IRS regulations. For more information, see IRS Publication 936 – Home Mortgage Interest.
For more information, see IRS Publication 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction; 2014 Instructions for Schedule A.
If you need another copy of your closing statement for the home you purchased or sold in 2014, contact your real estate professional.